Signe Anderson - vocals; Marty Balin - vocals, percussion; Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar; Jorma Kaukonen - lead guitar; Jack Casady - bass; Spencer Dryden - drums
This Friday evening Jefferson Airplane set, sandwiched between sets by the Grateful Dead and the Butterfield Blues Band, began a memorable three-day run at Winterland and the Fillmore Auditorium. At this point in time, Spencer Dryden had recently replaced original drummer, Skip Spence, who had moved on to found Moby Grape. Original female vocalist, Signe Anderson, was still on board, soon to be replaced by Grace Slick. The group was clearly forging ahead into new territory, beginning to leave their folk roots behind. Dryden and Casady were beginning to develop into one of the most powerful and original sounding rhythm sections in all of rock music. Their contribution was inspiring the other bandmembers to take a more adventurous approach.
This new approach is evident from the start of their set. Following Bill Graham's introduction, the group immediately launches into an improvisational jam, clearly a departure from the tight vocal arrangements of their early material. This particular jam is utterly unique among Airplane improvisations. Jorma Kaukonen's distinctive guitar takes it to another level, but it's the newly surfacing confidence level of the rhythm section that propels this along. We're even treated to an early bass solo from Casady, something that would begin to occur more frequently in the years to come.
The remainder of the set focuses on tighter song structures, vacillating between material off their debut album, like "Don't Slip Away," "And I Like It" and the set closing "It's No Secret" and non-album staples of their early live repertoire, like "High Flying Bird," "Go To Her" and a cover of Donovan's "Fat Angel." The latter Donovan number is particularly interesting here, as it is still in the early phase of development. Paul Kantner is still performing it on acoustic guitar, giving it a mellower feel than later fully electric excursions. Kaukonen and Casady's spacey interplay again comes to the fore here and it's a mesmerizing performance.
Following the set closing "It's No Secret," Kantner is heard saying "we'll be back later." It is unconfirmed if this alludes to a jam taking place between Butterfield/Dead/Airplane members later in the evening, but that is possibly the case, as they were scheduled to perform only one set per show during this run. During the following night's set, Kantner comments that Butterfield Blues Band guitarist, Mike Bloomfield, broke his guitar during a jam the previous night, lending additional credence to this assumption.
Written by Alan Bershaw